What Should I Do If I Am in The UK, But My Entry Clearance Was Not Activated Due To COVID-19 Restrictions?
The COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions have had many consequences for migrants coming to or in the UK. Many have been able to get to the UK to start work, study, or see their family members either because they were not able to leave their home country due to local restrictions or enter the UK because they are from a red-listed country. In some cases, there were simply no flights available to make the journey to the UK. The challenge for many migrants is that their visa and clearance to enter only lasts for a certain period. In the case of entry clearance vignettes (a visa sticker placed by UK Visas and Immigration into your passport to allow you to travel to the UK), these typically last for 30 or 90 days. As such, if you do not arrive in that specified window, this can mean you are not able to take advantage of the terms and conditions of the visa you have been approved for. In this article, we will explain what you can do if you are in the UK, but your entry clearance was not activated due to COVID-19 restrictions.
What is a visa vignette sticker?
Before answering the main question in this article, it is important to understand what a vignette sticker is. A vignette sticker is your visa to enter the UK. So, if you have secured a work or study visa (or any other type of visa), and you have had a vignette sticker placed into your passport, then you will be able to travel to the UK to start your work or study in accordance with the terms of your visa. Once in the UK, the migrant can then collect their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). The guidance on vignette stickers explains, “Since June 2019 the “CAT D” vignette (figure 2) is used for almost all categories including visit, employment, study and settlement. Vignettes for employment, study and settlement are usually valid for 30 days to enable the holder to travel to the UK and collect their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)”.
Vignettes have a valid from and valid until date on them; hence it is important to ensure you arrive in the UK within that date range.
What can I do if I arrived in the UK outside the dates on my visa vignette?
If you arrived in the UK outside these dates, while you may have been given permission to enter at the border, you will not have the entry clearance needed to stay for the purposes of your visa. This is because the entry clearance for your visa was not activated. Ordinarily, the main way to resolve this is to leave the UK and reapply for the visa. This would not be the case, however, if you were unable to enter the UK in the vignette date window due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, as this was clearly not your fault.
The COVID-19 guidance issued by the Home Office on this matter states, “If you entered the United Kingdom outside the 30 and 90-day window allowed by your Entry Clearance vignette due to COVID-19 impacts, and your Entry Clearance was not activated as a result, then you can apply to remain in the United Kingdom without having to return overseas or reapply”.
They have put in place a new process that will allow migrants in this situation to request activation of their entry clearance, which technical terms will ensure that the leave and conditions granted on entry at the border are varied to match the conditions of the Entry Clearance vignette. The Home Office says, “you are able to vary the leave and conditions granted on arrival to match the conditions of your Entry Clearance. This will not require any fee to be paid”.
How can I apply to have my leave and conditions varied to match those on my Entry Clearance?
It is a relatively quick and easy process to have your leave and conditions varied to match those on your Entry Clearance. To apply to vary your conditions, you will need to email ECActivation@homeoffice.gov.uk with the following details:
- a photo of yourself
- a photo of your Entry Clearance vignette and passport biodata page
- a photo of the Entry stamp in your passport
- details of how your travel was impacted by COVID-19 regulations
- residential address where an updated Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) can be returned
If your request is approved, UKVI will vary your conditions and generate a new Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). You will then receive an updated BRP by post with the correct conditions. As explained above, there is no fee to request this change, as this was outside your personal control.
If you travelled to the UK outside the timeframe on your entry clearance vignette due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and are now concerned that you cannot stay in accordance with the terms of the visa you were granted, please be reassured that you will not need to leave the country or return home to make a new visa application. Doing so would be extremely costly, time-consuming, and hugely inconvenient. The process outlined above means that you will be able to bring your current immigration conditions in line with what they should have been. This means you will be able to work, study, visit family members, start your business, invest your funds, or carry out any other activity permitted by your visa. If you are unsure if you can use this request process, perhaps because you don’t have evidence to show the delay of your arrival was due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, speak to immigration lawyers who will be able to advise you. If you have a genuine reason outside your control, we can help you resolve the matter quickly and efficiently, allowing you to carry on with your stay in the UK as you originally intended.